P03


Possession, mental illness and the effectiveness of healing rituals in contemporary South Asia and beyond 
Convenors:
Helene Basu (Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität)
William Sax (South Asia Institute, Heidlberg)
Claudia Lang (University of Leipzig)
Location:
C407
Start time:
27 July, 2012 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
3

Short Abstract:

Across South Asia, mental illness and possession constitute major disturbances addressed by both ritual and psychiatric therapies. What are the major contenders for theoretical explanations of the effectiveness of healing rituals?

Long Abstract

Across South Asia, mental illness and possession constitute major disturbances addressed by both ritual and psychiatric therapies. This panel seeks to explore recent transformations of mental health concepts, help seeking and care in South Asia and South Asian diasporic communities from the perspectives of sufferers and specialist practitioners living in multiple, mobile and competitive social worlds. How do people living in diverse local life-worlds connected by transnational relationships of communication engage with adversities and disorder experienced as mental suffering of Selves? What are the effects of migration in terms of mental health and illness for those who do not migrate? Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that many healing rituals in India are effective, and there are a handful of quantitative studies backing this up. However no comprehensive studies of the topic have been done, and theories about possible reasons for the effectiveness of healing rituals are very divergent. Why have so few studies been done on this important topic? What do the results suggest so far? What are the major contenders for theoretical explanations of the effectiveness of healing rituals? This panel brings together anthropologists, specialists in religion, and medical scientists to sort out the issues and suggest a way forward. We invite scholars who work in the field of mental health in South Asian contexts (on the subcontinent and/or in diasporic communities) to share their findings and explore new horizons of interdisciplinary exchange transcending conceptual boundaries and dichotomies between magic and science, religion and medicine, modernity and tradition.

Accepted papers: